The Best Dressed Award Goes to… By Jo Russell

At the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., a half circle of ladies pressed close to the glass to see the manikins decked out in Presidential First Lady gowns.

Spanning a hundred years, all the formal dresses stood out with custom designer touches.

“That would make me feel like Queen for a Day,” one commented. “Look at the beadwork!”

“Love those fabric roses! How unique!” another women cooed.

“What beautiful draping!”

“Wow! What a dress to wear to a ball!”

Not all in the crowd agreed. If ever there was a test case for the differences in viewpoint between male and female, this was it. Two school-aged brothers scowled. The taller one clamped his arms over his chest and looked up at his mother, “Can we go, Mom? This is boring.”

“Not now.”

“Know what I think?” The older son interjected in a voice that drowned out the ooos and ahhs. He uncrossed his arms and pointed to one gown at a time in a row and commented, ““Ugly! Ugly! Ugly! And…” he started, “AW…” then his younger sibling cried with him“…FUL!”

“AWFUL! Yeah!” they repeated. The two boys affirmed their opinions with a high-five and a smile.

“Now can we go? We want to see the trains and cars.”

Transportation was a hands-down victory over ball gowns.

It seems that the world most often evaluates a person’s value by their financial statements, clothes they wear, position, or possessions. Like the boys in this story, opinions of value may vary.

But the best dressed on earth and in Heaven are those close to the Creator, who loves us all. The best dressed shine with a heart close to Him, for the value is in the relationship and the person he created. Each is a unique designer piece with no equal. By comparison, the Presidential designer gowns look like burlap bags.

Jesus himself said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” [Luke 12:6-7]

More on God’s provision and value comes in Jesus’ words from Matthew, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you… So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ for the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”?” [Matthew 6:28-33]

The richness of relationship with God trumps transportation and clothes. And with that, each of us gets the Creator’s The Best Dressed Award. And what could be better than that?

 

Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words and Actions Work Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly By Jo Russell

As teen Laura Jeane and her younger sibling, Betty, cleared dinner dishes at their home after a meal for more than ten, Mama swiped a strand of hair from her forehead wet with sweat and sweetly asked the girls, “Could you two please wash the dishes tonight?”

A large dinner with extra guests like this was common for the family of five who ran a hotel. But back in the days before automatic dishwashers, the chore meant much soap, time, commitment, and hot water.

Sixteen-year-old Betty smiled and replied, “Of course, Mama! You’ve worked hard on this meal. I’ll be glad to help. But I need to make a phone call first.” An hour later, Betty was still giggling on the phone with her significant other.

Dishes seemed unimportant compared to, “And what do you want me to wear for the anniversary of our first date?” she queried. “Oooo. I can hardly wait!  You’re bringing a corsage, too?! Gee whiz! That’s swell!”

In spite of her great smile and promise, Betty never made it to the suds in the kitchen.

Laura Jeane did. She scrubbed the plates so hard, she nearly demolished the delicate design. Then slamming the clean plates on the counter, she groused aloud, “Just because I’m the oldest, I get stuck with chores to do by myself. It’s not fair! When will Betty get in here and help me?”

Betty was a total no-show. Though Laura Jeane finished cleaning the dishes and the kitchen as well, the teen verbalized a non-stop string of complaints about child labor, oppression, dictatorship, and unpaid overtime.

Her mother heard every word even as she reminded her daughter, “Remember, Dear, a smile goes a long way. Words and actions go together like peanut butter and jelly.” She couldn’t decide whose words and actions made her more angry.

Which of her teens’ actions was closer to what Mama wanted–promising but not doing or doing and complaining the entire time?

What is God’s take on this?

Jesus himself has the answer in this story in the book of Matthew, “There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

‘I will not,’ he answered, but later changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father wanted?” [Matthew 21:31]

Jesus explained that saying one will obey [God’s will] and not doing it is a mismatch between words and action. It was common in Jesus’ time and can be today as well.

Does keeping one’s promise count even count today?

King David advises, “Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them.” Psalm 76:ll.

Jesus shined with integrity and boldness. He always kept his word and promises, even in giving his life as a sacrifice.

The responsibility of saying we will do God’s will and just going through the motions doesn’t fool the Creator. He can always see the truth in our hearts. Words and action go together like peanut butter and jelly, like hamburgers and fries, like socks and shoes—even like a dishrag and soap.

When Laura Jeane washed the next mountain of dishes at the hotel another day, she had the help of her sweetie, Gus, who reminded her, “You meet the nicest people doing dishes, and you’re one of them.” And theirs turned into an even better match than peanut butter and jelly.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

Navigating the Mountaintops and S-Curves by Jo Russell

As dusk fell greyed the familiar mountain road, fog clouded the scene, leaving the pavement wet with mist. Jolene neared the end of an all-day trek across the state and noted, “Wow! Roads more curvy than a plate of spaghetti!” Her teens, both with learners’ permits, took the role of backseat drivers. She looked beyond their frequent advice and remembered a teacher’s tip for staying alert.

“Forget the caffeine. Eat sunflower seeds,” the coach advised. “It will keep you awake into the wee hours.”  He spent hours and miles driving a van filled with teens to school athletic events.

So Jolene was now mastering the coordination of a stick shift, sunflower seeds, and S-curves. While Jolene downshifted, she turned the wheel with one hand, cracked the seeds with her teeth, she dropped the shells in a paper bag with her free hand.

The teens in the backseat had their own opinions.

Just as Jolene was powering into a curve, a youthful voice cried out in a loud voice, “Dear God, please get us home safely–even though–YIKES!–It doesn’t seem possible right now!”

A few miles later, another of her offspring interjected, “Mom!”

“What?!”

“Your driving! Pay attention! That skunk wanted to cross the road! It had the right of way!”

She mumbled to herself between sunflower seeds, “Leave it to someone who has 26 miles of driving experience to have all the answers!”

Road, weather, and opinions in the backseat improved in the next few miles and the family got home safely with a big thanks to God.

Life is never dull because of all the challenges, mountaintops, and valleys we travel.  Leaning on God in all situations is not weakness, but strength. For God is many times stronger than we are. He can help through anything – health, family, relationship, career challenges – even curvy roads.

God’s plans for us will include things that are difficult and beyond our abilities. But with his help, God evens up the odds and helps us to the goal. He is the most steadfast and powerful friend anyone could have. He can be your team leader.

When a bicyclist races, he or she counts on the team to break the wind. That strategy conserves energy and allows the bicyclist a burst of speed at the finish. A racer needs his team.

In the bathtub races through the open channel between Nanaimo, B.C. and Vancouver, a full-sized boat smoothes the water in front of the small watercraft fighting its way across the open sea. For safety and to make it across the rough water, a bathtub racer needs help.

God smooths the path before us. He is our support team and leader who makes us strong to the finish.

The great warrior and King David wrote, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:28-29. This followed one of David’s many victories.

Victory in everyday life with God’s help may even make it simple navigating with a stick shift, sunflower seeds, and S-curves.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]

 

 

 

The 100-Yard Chapel Sprint By Jo Russell

According to caring dog trainers, good canine behavior starts with simple commands: “Come,” “Sit,” “Stay” and “Heel.” The last command is translated “behaves sensibly on a leash.”

Fletcher, the basset hound, towed the twelve-year-old, Rick, around the block like a lawn tractor. He bolted to strangers for a treat. He followed his nose to places where no dog had ever been. He was, most of the time, lovable, but not perfect. Often, it took him several tries to get things right.

In the summer church camp where the Charlene and son lived and worked, they welcomed new groups every week and worked with guests. Fletcher stayed home. Once the family pet got used to the boring routine,  the dog wasn’t happy sticking to the yard around the family’s log cabin. There were eighty-two wooded acres of camp that needed the talents of his nose. After a ride home from a picnic with Charlene and her son, Fletcher bolted from the truck into the trees, heading for music and people who would love his sad eyes and smooth coat. Petting and the snacks were guaranteed with this crowd.

“Rick!” Charlene called to her son. “Catch Fletcher! Run!” The lanky twelve-year-old sprinted along a dirt path after the dog, but without a leash. His first strategy was to check behind the cafeteria where the staff tossed leftovers on the slope, like sandwiches and waffles. Fletcher loved to lick up leftovers, and Rick found him there. Not for long. The powerful muscled dog pulled away from the boy at a run as his legs churned to the wide open chapel doors. Fletcher’s ears twirled like batons. He barked in joyful rhythm to the music inside, and then dashed down the aisle. As he whirled around and headed to the open door, the dog stopped for a moment.

Just then Charlene drove up in the truck with the leash. She heard laughter through the open doors of the chapel. Dangling his favorite snack, a piece of bread, out the window, she shouted,  “Here, Fletcher!”

And at last, the canine followed directions as he sniffed his way to the truck.

Someone laughed, “That dog must be an evangelist!”

Even though the dog flunked some commands, God used Fletcher that day as several came to the altar that day chuckling. It was a time anyone could change their heart and life with Jesus, and humor nudged each along.

God’s call is to all who are imperfect. He may use us as we are or hone us with new experiences to be even better. He might even give us more chances to get it right.

But best of all, He’s not finished with us yet.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.] 

New and Improved? Or Timeless and Dependable? By Jo Russell

As the family of four pushed open the door and entered the warm café, eight-year-old Carrie cried at the specials board in the entry way. “Look! New apple pie!”

Wee daughter Sarah–just four–chimed in, “New apple pie! That’s just what I want, too!”

After hot lunches, the girls both ordered “new apple pie.” But when the waitress placed the perfect flakey pie wedge in front of the younger girl, Sarah’s voice dropped with disappointment. “It doesn’t look new,” she frowned. “It’s just like other apple pie.”

“Yeah,” agreed her older sister, Carrie. “If this is new apple pie, what was the old one like?  Grandma’s is better.”

“New!” is an attention-getting exclamation drawing attention to change.  Is it always an improvement? Maybe not. When it comes to a better taste, a more effective product, or a work-saving device, new may make things easier. But sometimes new is like a hot waffle stuck fast to the griddle.  The “New and Improved” mix only ends in dry crumbs even after excavation as skillful as experts at an archeological site.

Some want empirical facts before they become willing to try out God as a new product. But He is not a new brownie mix – or apple pie that will shine above all other desserts at a potluck.

Consider these words from that assure that God is timely, dependable, and amazing:

“In the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing, you will change them and they will be discarded.

But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” [Psalm 102: 25-27 NIV]

New is not needed when it comes to God and His promises. You don’t have to wonder what the old one was like. You don’t have to rewrite the agenda to make room for changes. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And His presence is the improved recipe in all the days of your life.

And that’s better than “new apple pie”!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from Amazon.com, her speaking engagements and  website, www.button-to-god.com. Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]